It wasn’t meant to be this way, of course. She was billed as the competent one, unburdened by ideology and diligent in the extreme. True to her “A” student reputation she studied up for her confirmation hearings and impressed all with how hardworking and responsible she was. One would have thought she was up for a Girl Scout merit badge (neat in appearance, prepared for any eventuality, ever cheerful, and so on), not for the job of architect of American foreign policy.
But that reputation for competency has been of course entirely unearned. She was the one who bollixed up HillaryCare by designing an exquisitely complicated government take-over of health care and then refusing to compromise. It was she who ran an “experience” campaign in a “change” election and made no plans for securing caucuses in key states or devising a post-Super Tuesday strategy. The gal with the sterling reputation for achievement has a record littered with failure.
At this rate, her tenure at the State Department is likely to be the capstone on a career of fumbles and misjudgments. The very same qualities which resulted in prior failures — an inability to see the big picture, stubbornness verging on arrogance, and excessive reliance on a coterie of like-minded advisors — plague her once again.
And whatever muscular foreign policy ideas she displayed in the campaign (most clearly on Iran) and her heretofore strong support for Israel have been sacrificed for the sake of getting along with Obama. She has, in short, not lived up to the expectations and hopes of many moderates and conservatives that she would bring a toughness toward foes and some common sense to an administration badly lacking in both.
Aside from the utter hash she has made of American foreign policy (to the extent she designed it or at least vouched for it) she has done a fine job undermining any future political ambitions she still clings to. (And this is Hillary we are talking about, so we can be certain she is still clinging to dreams of that Clinton restoration.) Somehow I suspect her Israel record won’t go over well with Jewish voters, and her Honduras calamity might be hard to explain to Hispanic voters. And of course, failure and incompetence are hard to explain to everyone.
Had she stayed in the Senate, she might have inherited the mantle of liberal leadership from Ted Kennedy. Clinton might have been the one to pull a rabbit out of the hat to save health-care reform. But once again her ambition got the best of her and her self-image of super-smart, super-capable policy wonk led her to a poor career choice. Now, politics is filled with second and third acts, and maybe her political career will recover. But I’m not sure her reputation ever will.